Glob lightWHAT IS IT that propels some entrepreneurs to succeed and other to fail?

Defining Success and Failure

In order to talk about the traits of successful entrepreneurs, we must first start with a better understanding of “success” and “failure”. Success is often erroneously defined as—everything you do produces a favorable outcome.  If “success” is equated with never having an idea that did not work, never having a business shut-down, or never encountering insurmountable product development problems, then there are very few successful entrepreneurs in this world, and it is near certain that you too will not be “successful”.

True success is—ultimately accomplishing a desired purpose. True success is buried deep within the continuance of work, regardless of opposition, in spite of setback, in the face of roadblocks and folded companies. True success has more to do with where you draw the finish line, rather than solely the outcome of events.

The invention of the electric light bulb was met with extraordinary “failures”, but Thomas Edison the American inventor holding 1,093 patents, didn’t draw the finish line prematurely.  He continued his work amidst “failure” even when others gave up and concluded it could not work.  Later, when Edison was asked about his innumerable failures while working to discover the optimal light bulb filament, he said “I never failed once—it was just a 2,000 step process”.

There are many significant characteristics that accompany successful entrepreneurs, and a number of important ones are discussed in the book, “The Business of Bioscience”, however, two readily distinguishable traits worth noting are, that successful entrepreneurs all possess (1) passion for their work and (2) a vision for its future.

Passion for Your Work

Passion is what keeps the fire within blazing when others attempt to throw water on the flames.  Naysayers will inform an entrepreneur of the myriad of reasons why an idea, product or business cannot succeed. A wise entrepreneur will always heed advice about obstacles and be creative to overcome these, but successful entrepreneurs do not quit simply because others have explained why something cannot be done. Naysayers operate under Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, which says: an object at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force.  Naysayers rarely overcome the inertia of inactivity.  Although they can easily spot problems in a business plan or idea, they are hard-pressed to come up with solutions, simply because it takes too much creative energy for them to do so.

The successful entrepreneur however is self-motivated, and their momentum is internally generated by their passion.  They operate in the corollary to the 1st Law of Motion, which says: an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. The successful entrepreneur is in perpetual motion, and they overcome outside forces through creative ideas and solutions.

Having Vision

Successful entrepreneurs are visionaries.  Vision is seeing with your internal eyes, and not just with the eyes in your head.  Anyone can “see” the circumstances, but only inspired entrepreneurs see what others do not see.  Sometimes this aspect of vision can be taken too far afoul and becomes “entrepreneurial myopia”, which is really ignoring realities (see 9/30/09 post).  Having true vision is seeing with both sets of eyes without losing sight of the internal vision.

Orville and Wilbur Wright had a vision of flying, as did many other entrepreneurs and inventors.  Before the 1900’s, the majority of the world said it could not be done.  Many concluded that, “if God meant us to fly he would have given us wings”.  The Wright brothers believed that they were indeed given wings, and they worked to perfect them.  They pursued their vision, and on December 17, 1903—they did fly.


Successful entrepreneurs have diverse personalities yet all possess a core group of similar traits. Some are born with these core traits; for others, these traits are acquired during their career. However, passion and vision are two critical components that ALL successful entrepreneurs possess.

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